Hypoxia and the Metastatic Niche

  • Cerise Yuen-Ki Chan
  • Vincent Wai-Hin Yuen
  • Carmen Chak-Lui WongEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1136)


Metastasis is considered the latest stage of cancer development; however, metastasis occurs earlier than it can be detected. Metastatic sites are actively remodeled by secretory factors including growth factors, chemokines and cytokines, extracellular matrix (ECM) enzymes, and exosomes produced by the primary cancer tissues. Many of the associated-secretory factors are abundantly induced by inflammation and hypoxia. These secretory factors modify the ECM, immune composition, and blood vessel permeability of the future metastatic sites, a process termed ‘metastatic niche formation.’ In general, ECM is modified to enhance the attachment of other cell types or cancer cells to establish a growth-factor rich metastatic niche. Immune-suppressive cells such as tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and regulatory T cells (Tregs) dominate the metastatic niche to allow metastatic cancer cells to bypass immune surveillance and propagate. Endothelial cell-to-cell junctions of blood vessels are loosened to enhance the penetrance of metastatic cancer cells to the metastatic sites. Different metastatic tissues have unique ECM constituents, resident immune cells, and anatomical positions linked with the circulatory system; therefore, many cancer types have their own metastatic pattern, and they favor metastasis to specific organs. Some of the remodeling events represent the earliest step of metastasis, even preceding the detachment of cancer cells from the primary tumor site. Understanding how the metastatic niche is formed is important for the development of drugs to prevent the earliest step of metastasis and advance our understanding of organotrophic metastasis. This review summarizes the major findings in the field of metastatic niche highlighting the role of hypoxia.


PMN (Premetastatic niche) BMDC (bone marrow-derived cell) TAM (tumor-associated macrophage) Treg (regulatory T cell) MDSC (myeloid-derived suppressor cell) Tumor microenvironment ECM Cytokine Chemokine Exosome 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cerise Yuen-Ki Chan
    • 1
  • Vincent Wai-Hin Yuen
    • 1
  • Carmen Chak-Lui Wong
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PathologyThe University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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